Scheduled Tweets with TweetDeck

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I was working late into the night last night (ok, partly because I had given up sweets for Lent and wanted some chocolate after midnight) and finished the business unit for my sports course. Students sometimes complain that my tweets wake them up; it happened the other day when I sent one at 10.30 on a school night (this is at least partly a generational difference; my phone is nowhere near my bed). So I figured 12.30 AM, even on a Sat. night, might not be the best choice. I seemed to remember reading or hearing somewhere that Twitter clients can schedule tweets so I figured I’d see if TweetDeck could. It could, and I scheduled one for today at 12.30 (just changed the AM to a PM). My question then became whether it would send with the computer off / asleep. It seemed less than productive if it couldn’t / didn’t, but I wasn’t quite sure how that would work. In any case, it did indeed send. One of my students has already signed up for the Doodle poll that was part of the unit / tweet. So good job, TweetDeck.

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Doceri v. Splashtop Revisited

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My history with digital annotations is a bit idiosyncratic. I started with a Promethean Board, then got slates for the Promethean Board, then came the iPad with first Doceri and then Splashtop, and now I have an Eno board. I never committed to any of them because none of them were entirely satisfying. I might be ready, though.

Doceri has emerged as reliable, versatile, and efficient. Their latest update (released in the fall?) made some nice improvements that have made what is already a pleasantly functional app more functional and more efficient. Doceri has added a QR code connectivity feature, which I originally thought was very gimmicky, but have come to use exclusively and miss in comparable apps. Doceri has also added an export-directly-to-Dropbox feature, which admittedly could be a bit more efficient in Doceri but still is more efficient than dragging and dropping files (which I often forget to do over time, much less on a daily basis).

Doceri’s strength is in its response-to-contact time. It’s ‘finger writing’ is instantaneous and smooth (my handwriting, on the other hand…). Its computer control isn’t quite as precise as I would like, which for me originally took me away from Doceri, but now I can look past. Splashtop is the opposite. Its computer control is precise and reliable but its response-to-contact time is too long, i.e. when you write there is a split-second lag from when you contact the screen and when the stroke appears. I stuck with Splashtop for a while. I plugged it to friends and colleagues. But ultimately, whether because of our network or it, it is unreliable in its initial connection to the computer and holding that connection. Doceri’s QR code connectivity works great on the front end and I can’t remember the last time it dropped me mid-class. Additionally, you can leave Doceri and return without any difficulty.

So Doceri it is for me. Easy connectivity, swift response, direct exporting to Dropbox all make it the best that I’ve tried.

Bamboo Stylūs

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When I first started using iPad annotation software (Docerī, Splashtop) I tried out styluses (stylūs? the Latin teacher in me desperately wants fourth declension plurals to be used in English (even though stylus is a second declension noun, whose plural would be stylī, analogous to alumnus / alumnī); wouldn’t it be much better to say walrūs (walroose) instead of the awkward walruses?)) and didn’t love them. These were your basic stylūs, nothing fancy, and I didn’t feel like the trouble of carrying them around (or remembering to grab them) outweighed what they gave me.

A colleague of mine got some stylūs from Wacom and passed one along to me (thanks, HP), and I like it so much better. First is the heft of the stylus; it sits nicely in the hand and feels like an instrument / pen. It doesn’t fly around like those lightweight ones. And it seems, though I admit I’m not positive about this one, that it is pressure sensitive (or maybe the iPad screen is?) in that the harder you push, the thicker the line. When my students were using it yesterday, one student’s work had a thicker line and I commented that she had changed the weight of the line in the app. She said she hadn’t, so I assumed that she was pressing harder with the stylus, thus creating a thicker line.

The stylus that I’m using also doubles as a pen, i.e. stylus on one end, pen on the other, which is a great feature. I use pens so infrequently these days (because I use paper so infrequently) that to have the pen there when I need it is a more of a convenience than I expected.

The pressure sensitivity thing can work both ways. I’ve found sometimes that when my iPad Mini is propped in its case, because the prop mechanism is not locked in, if the iPad shifts upon contact with the stylus, the stylus does not register. But that is a relatively minor issue and one that is as much the fault of the case as it is of the stylus.

So overall I’m enjoying the Wacom Bamboo stylus. Check it out here.

I’m a Mac, I’m a PC Ads

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I like to think that I rarely engage in the harvesting of Internet chaff, but I couldn’t resist this nugget: the Zagg blog has collected all of the ‘I’m a Mac, I’m a PC’ ads. I regret to admit that I’ve been watching them. The tune gets a bit annoyingly repetitive after a while, but the ads are priceless. Here’s the first set, and the others are linked from there.

The Blended Classroom Experiment

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I have undertaken an experiment with my English 4 class to go blended for the next 6-8 weeks. The first question, I suppose, because it certainly was for me, is what blended means. Here is a definition that I found useful (and to some extent confirmed my initial assumptions about blended:

  • Blended learning: is any time a student learns at least in part at a supervised brick-and-mortar location away from home and at least in part through online delivery with some element of student control over time, place, path and/or place.3
  • http://www.onlineprogramhowto.org/site/#blendedlearning
  • 3 Staker, Heather. et. al. (2011). The Rise of K-12 Blended Learning: Profiles of Emerging Models. Innosight Institute.

This experiment stems from that age old question of what to do with 4th quarter / 2nd semester seniors, that, as someone who has taught seniors for years now has always been faced with that sense of filling their time (and mine) with work as a way to combat their natural (and to some extent understandable) listlessness. Will the carrot of a blended classroom motivate them, with some other things in place as well, to not only work but to produce a higher quality of work?

Our classes meet six days out of an eight day cycle. Under this model, students would meet face to face for three of those days (in our case E, F, G & F, G, H for the two different sections). What about those days when we don’t meet? The student work load does not change. They are still assigned and working on the same projects and papers that they would have been in the classroom. Rather than working on them in class, however, they now choose when to work on them, i.e. they still have that class time to work on them but now can defer that work to other times as well.

More important, the not-in-class days (I’m trying to avoid using the term off days, though it is a convenient term) will be used this upcoming cycle of not-in-class days (i.e. next week) and subsequent cycles for mandatory conferences for which students sign up through Doodle. Not only must students attend the conferences but they also must turn work in prior to the conference for us to discuss (which I will read prior to the conference for efficiency’s sake).

Grading also becomes a bit tighter. One of the sticks of my blended classroom is that deadlines become much firmer; if they have the time, there is no reason work shouldn’t be getting done. Tomorrow is our first day back in class after the first cycle of not being in class. They have due two parts of a project they’re working on. These parts will be graded themselves and will not be able to made up if not completed.

Student reaction when I announced it was pleasantly varied (I was going to worry if it was overwhelmingly positive or negative): some were very excited about the prospect of having more control over their time (and some even made the connection between such control and going to college next year) while some were very concerned about their ability to manage that time (one student opined that his grade would never survive this system). I have not had much parent reaction but the two parents from whom I heard were supportive of it. We emailed a letter home explaining what it was and how it would work; you can read the letter here.

I haven’t heard much teacher reaction, though I was asked to present to the Dept. Chairs. I would think that the first assumption is that it’s time off, i.e. teachers’ first reaction would be ‘Sounds great. Another free period? Who wouldn’t want that.’ And on a base level that is partially correct: no class to plan, no time in front of the students. But in many ways the work that is required during those not-in-class days is both more difficult and more time-consuming. Next week, I will spend one to two periods per day in 8 minute conferences for each of which I will have to read and comment on material. I will be interested to see how that goes from my end of things, much less the student end of things.

But tomorrow is the first real test of how this will work / is working. If students have their work and are ready to go, it means they’re understanding and internalizing both the system and their role in it. If they don’t have their work, it means that they’re looking at it as more of a vacation from class. We’ll see….

Any thoughts on, advice about, or experience with blended would be appreciated. I’m interested to see how the experiment goes but don’t necessarily have a lot of first hand experience with it.

Twitter for Assignments

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I’m here at CANE 2013 at UConn listening to a presentation on Operation Lapis, a game-based learning system for Latin that I’ve known about but am interested in learning more about. Kevin (Ballestrini) is walking us through the process; this is a hands-on workshop, and he uses EdModo as the platform (which is not necessary for Operation Lapis but is recommended). A prompt is presented and students respond using the ‘reply’ button, which then appear underneath the prompt for the teacher to see all together.

It occurred to me (and I do feel like I’ve thought this or seen this before) that Twitter could be used in this way, that I could post a prompt to which students could respond using Twitter. The feed would collect everything there, and Twitter would restrict responses to 140 characters, preventing them from overcomplicating their Latin. Interesting. I’ll have to think this through a bit more.

Thanks, Splitweet, and No Thanks, HootSuite

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I use Splitweet to manage my various Twitter feeds. It’s a simple interface where I click to which Twitter account(s) I want to tweet, and out it goes. When I logged on this morning went to the site, I was greeted with the HootSuite site. I assumed (rightly) that HootSuite had acquired Splitweet. No problem. Log in and go. Not so fast. My login information wasn’t recognized. Tried multiple emails and passwords (though I was pretty certain that I knew the info), tried the forgot password option, and email wasn’t recognized. The frustrating part was that there was no notice from HootSuite to Splitweet users. I had to Google that and ended up here.

Now, you know it’s not good when the header reads ‘Make the transition to HootSuite’ and the button says ‘Join HootSuite Pro’. Pro of course mean pay, which I am not about to do (not does it sound like HootSuite is quite what I want anyway). My favorite line, though, is this: ‘If you have been using Splitweet for personal use, explore your many options including the new tools, apps and features available at Twitter.com.’ Thanks for sending me back to the very site that I was using your old site to manage. There does seem to be buried somewhere in all of this a free option (I’d link it if it were at all useful), but it limits you to five profiles to manage (and I have more Twitter accounts than that for my classes). So in the end a frustrating discovery and an even more frustrating realization of what it means: not the end of the world, but I have to find a new Twitter client and set it up again.

So thanks, Splitweet; it was great while it lasted. As for HootSuite, no thanks. Too little information / assistance, too much trouble. As for a new Twitter client, Suggestions would be welcome….

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